Build Your Authority as a Writer: Write with a Consistent Tone

Didn’t you hate those “in your own words” questions in school?

Somehow, those were impossible to answer without a fair deal of grinding beforehand. And as I was antagonistic toward the idea of studying at home, these exam questions were a likely culprit for my low grades.

Thank God, I overcame this antagonism, because own-words questions prepare us for the writing craft. In this blog, I’ll show you why the skill of using your own words is crucial for authoritative writing.

Understanding Your Topic

Suppose you’ve been interviewing experts for your nonfiction book, and they touched upon a subtopic you were unfamiliar with. You followed their reasoning, but you couldn’t internalize it.

Now, you sit behind your desk, surrounded by notes and scribbles. Your chest tightens up; your writing slows down. At a loss for living words, you begin copying your interviewee verbatim—jargon included.

You’re botching the in-your-own-words exam.

What you need is a thorough understanding of the topic. You need to own the argument—live it, breathe it. Whether or not you agree with it, the argument must become part of you before you can convey it sounding like your unforced self.

And sounding unforced is crucial—a forced tone chips away at your authority. When your prose sounds free, readers will feel you know what you’re talking about.

Inconsistencies throughout Your Book

Usually, you aim to master your book’s subject before you put pen to paper; if there are dips in your comprehension, that shows in a few sections at worst.

But inexperienced writers often interlace their free- and personal-sounding chapters with stuffy encyclopedia entries. In one chapter they sound like a young high school teacher; in the next, like an 80-year-old college professor. The formal register is all over the place.

You’re looking for a consistent tone from the beginning of your book to the end. So, be sure you fully grasp what you share with your reader.

Spending More Time with Your Topic

If you notice you’re copying your source’s words and phrases, take a step back and review your topic. Read another book, watch another video, wrestle through another course. Do some freewriting.

The more time you spend interacting with your topic, the deeper it will anchor into your brain.

Try to explain it to your grandmother. And only when she’s nodding and asking the right questions do you return to your keyboard and continue typing—fast and free.

Before Speed Comes Understanding

A while ago, we briefly discussed how outlines help you loosen up when writing your nonfiction book. I often recommend that my students write fast when connecting the dots of their outlines. High speed provides the relaxation you need to sound like yourself.

But understanding should always come before speed. While creating your outline, test your knowledge by summarizing all the points you intend to make. If you get stuck, you might have some studying to do.

A Christian Nonfiction Editor Helps You Spot Inconsistencies

Even if you did everything right, your tone might change over the pages—especially if your manuscript is bulky.

You might have written chapter five two years later than chapter one. You have grown. You might be devouring other kinds of books now than when you started. All these things can threaten the consistency of your book.

As an editor, I can help you spot these problems and fix them. Book a free discovery call, and we’ll look at your manuscript together.

Enjoyed this blog?

Have a look at my other posts. And if you need help finishing your story, let’s chat.

Build Your Authority as a Writer: Write with a Consistent Tone

Niels Kwakernaak

Nonfiction Editor

Thanks for your interest in my experience and ideas. I write these blogs to help you overcome the hurdles of being a writer.

Would you like some one-on-one input? I’d love to help you develop your stories.

Connect with me via LinkedIn or my contactform.

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